COLUMBUS Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell has advised local election officials not to enforce the so-called five-minute rule on Nov. 8, knowing voters face an unusually long ballot laden with statewide and local ballot issues.
The rule setting a 5-minute limit for the casting of ballots, in existence for decades, has rarely been enforced, but it was used by some poll workers during the 2004 presidential election when lines extended out into parking lots.
Off-year elections like next week s turned out about 36 percent of registered voters in 2001 and 2003.
Secretary Blackwell encourages voters to review the language of the state ballot issues as well as the local issues in advance, said Blackwell spokesman Carlo LoParo.
An attempt to read the ballot for the first time will need an extraordinary amount of time at the polls. Next, we encourage election officials to alert voters to review postings at the polling places, or allow them to review those issues as they wait to vote.
There are no penalties attached to violations of the five-minute time limit.
It s more of an alert, when it s exercised, than a requirement, said Mr. LoParo.
Additional delays could be created as voters are introduced to new voting equipment in some counties, the beginning of a statewide upgrade triggered by the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002.
Some voters using new computerized, touch-screen voting devices might seek poll workers help with an unfamiliar paper backup system facing its first test in an Ohio election.
The system allows voters to double-check their votes on paper before finalizing them on screen.
On Nov. 8, voters will be asked to support a $2 billion borrowing package for local public works projects, research and development, and infrastructure improvements associated with shovel-ready commercial and industrial development.
Four additional, lengthy statewide ballot issues propose major changes to the way the state operates elections, affecting redistricting, campaign contribution limits, absentee voting, and election oversight.
The five-minute rule has been so rarely enforced that Scarlett Bouder, spokesman for the Reform Ohio Now coalition pushing the election ballot issues, was unaware of it.
She said the group isn t counting on voters waiting to take the time to read the ballot issues only after pulling the curtain to the voting booth.
We re not relying on that, she said.
That s why we have 12,000 volunteers and over a dozen staff people statewide working extremely hard.
They will be out in force Saturday and Sunday to get out the vote, going door-to-door and phone-banking.